Another pro-choice myth that is widely circulated by pro-choice advocates is that abortion produces no adverse psychological effects. The media publicizes campaigns such as ‘1 in 3’ and ‘Shout Your Abortion’, where women are encouraged to proudly declare their abortion experiences as empowering life decisions. On the other hand, the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, where thousands of women and other relatives of abortion victims have told their stories of regret and heartbreak, is largely dismissed as more ‘pro-life propaganda’. At pro-life events, protestors often shout down women who are trying to express the regret they feel due to their abortions. While women who claim that abortion was the best decision they ever made are celebrated, the experiences of women who say that their abortion haunts them every hour of every day are completely invalidated.
Personal experience with abortion is largely subjective. There are just as many women who claim that abortion was a positive experience for them as there are women who express profound regret. Further, a lack of long-term research makes it difficult to determine for certain what kind of psychological effects abortion has. However, as David Reardon points out, when people were fighting for abortion to be legalized, the claim was that abortion would reduce levels of mental illness, as fewer girls would have to struggle through unplanned pregnancy. However, the opposite has been the case; mental illness has been on the rise over the past decades. Priscilla Coleman, a Professor of Human Development and Family Studies references the fact that: “Research has systematically shown that women who have had an abortion are at a higher risk for substance abuse, anxiety, depression, suicidal type thoughts and behaviours, [and] eating disorders . . .” A prestigious study in Finland “discovered a suicide rate among women who aborted nearly six times greater than among women who delivered their babies.” This research, in addition to research that shows that suicide rates go up on the anniversary of a woman’s abortion, is largely ignored.
It is hard to pinpoint abortion as the single causal factor of adverse psychological effects, as women who have abortions are often in negative situations to begin with. Additionally, women often conceal their abortion history, and abortions continue to be underreported. Interestingly, the report by the American Psychological Association that is used to support the claim that abortion has no negative long-term psychological effects makes several admissions. One of these shows that one month after the abortion 79% of women claimed that they were satisfied with their decision, while after two years that number at dropped to 72%. This means that after immediately following their abortion, 21% of women claim that their abortion harmed them more than it benefited them. Every year in Canada 100 000 abortions occur, which means that 21 000 women feel adverse psychological effects. As time goes on, the number of women suffering as a result of abortion increases.
It is easy to get lost in the statistics, forgetting that each of those 21 000 women have individual stories of pain, hurt, and loss. Abortion is wrong because it ends the life of an innocent human being, but the damage it causes does not end there. Thousands of women and their families suffer deep trauma because they were not given the proper information about the risks surrounding abortion. The important question that needs to be asked is: Why? Why does abortion cause such trauma to women? The answer is because we know. We know that pre-born children are living human beings that deserve our protection not in spite of their vulnerability but because of it. Women deserve to know all of the information surrounding the abortion procedure, but what they truly need to know is what, or rather who, they carry within them.